If you saw the great documentary “Man on Wire” (on my top ten list for 2008), or if you watched the Oscars this year, you know Philippe Petit: He’s the French tightrope walker who astonished the world by walking a wire between the World Trade Center towers in 1974 (the subject of the film), and the man who charmed the Academy Awards audience by doing a coin trick at the podium and balanching his Oscar on his chin. I interviewed Petit on the phone last year, and he’s a lot of fun to talk to as long as you don’t bore him. (I’d been warned ahead of time that he gets abrupt if he thinks interview questions are dull.) Asked if he wire-walks in his dreams, he said this:
I never, never do. The closest, I dream I am at the top of a soft hill and I start riunning to the bottom of the hill, and in slow motion I slowly become a bird, I glide around and it’s a very pleasurable dream, I never dream of walking on the wire.
The New York Times reports today that Petit is at work planning another high-wire walk; this one in the fall in midtown Manhattan “in a very recognizable location.” It’s part of a series of walks across the country Petit has planned, to raise awareness for literacy.
And what of the feature-film version of “Man on Wire,” based on Petit’s book “To Reach the Clouds”? Last summer, word was that Robert Zemeckis was attached to direct; today’s story just says that Petit is in talks with “a Hollywood producer.” Count me as someone who isn’t sure this story needs to become a feature film. The Towers are gone; the footage would have to be faked (no film footage exists of Petit’s achievement, though there are many still photos). “Man on Wire” is a witty and beautiful tribute to one of the most remarkable feats of daring we’ll ever see; let that be enough.
Photo copyright 2008 Jean-Louis Blondeau/Polaris Images